Almost 15,000 Egyptians have fled war-torn Libya via a single border crossing in the wake of Islamic State’s murder of 21 Coptic Christians, Egyptian state media says.
Last week Egyptian and Libyan warplanes hit IS targets inside Libya after the jihadists released a gruesome video of the Christians, 20 of them Egyptian, being beheaded.
Cairo has since urged the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians working in Libya to leave, and has chartered planes to fly many of them home from Tunisia, Libya’s western neighbour.
At least 14,585 Egyptians heeded the call and fled through Sallum in northwest Egypt, state news agency MENA reported.
It was reported 3,018 Egyptians left on Monday alone, but it was unclear how many were Christian.
A transport ministry spokeswoman in Tunisia said since Friday at least 1,000 Egyptians who fled Libya were airlifted home on planes chartered by Cairo.
A Tunisian customs official said an unspecified number of Egyptians were also waiting on the Libyan side of the border.
Last July, thousands of Egyptians fleeing violence in Libya were stranded for days at the border with Tunisia, with authorities refusing to admit them until Cairo had arranged their return home.
Tunisia was flooded by expatriates fleeing Libya during the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamar Gaddafi.
Meanwhile, seven civilians were killed when Egyptian jets attacked suspected Islamist militant targets in the eastern Libyan city of Derna, according to Amnesty International.
Egyptian warplanes began bombarding Islamic State targets last Monday after the release of the beheading video.
On Sunday, Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the air force hit 13 targets selected after a careful study and reconnaissance “with precision” to avoid civilian casualties.
“No-one should think we attacked civilians,” Mr al-Sisi said.
But London-based rights group Amnesty International criticised Egypt over the strikes, saying its air force failed to take the necessary precautions in the raids which killed seven civilians in a residential neighbourhood of Derna.
“Egypt has now joined the ranks of those placing civilians at risk in Libya,” Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said.
“The killing of seven civilians, six of them in their own homes, must be investigated, as it appears to have been disproportionate.”
Amnesty said that during the February 16 strikes, two missiles were fired into a heavily populated residential area called Sheiha al-Gharbiya near Derna’s university.
“One missile struck a four-storey house belonging to the al-Kharshoufi family, killing a mother and her three children aged between three and eight, and injuring their father and another child,” Amnesty said.
“A second missile hit a street in between civilian houses, causing three other deaths.”
Amnesty said it had found no evidence of any military target in the area, and the strike came without any prior warning to civilians.